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Soccer: U.S. men beat Mexico, win Nations League

Christian Pulisic scored a penalty kick in extra time to lead the U.S. Men's National Team to a win over Mexico in the CONCACAF Nations League Final on Sunday in Denver. Photo by Alan Poizner/EPA-EFE
Christian Pulisic scored a penalty kick in extra time to lead the U.S. Men's National Team to a win over Mexico in the CONCACAF Nations League Final on Sunday in Denver. Photo by Alan Poizner/EPA-EFE

June 7 (UPI) -- Christian Pulisic's late penalty kick and goalie Ethan Horvath's game-winning save led the U.S. Men's National Team to an epic extra-time win over Mexico in the CONCACAF Nations League soccer tournament final.

Pulisic placed his extra-time attempt in the upper-right portion of the net in the 114th minute to give the U.S. the final lead in the 3-2 victory Sunday at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver.

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"I said I'm going to go out swinging and I was going to go for it," Pulisic told reporters.

The U.S. men are No. 20 in the FIFA World Ranking, while Mexico ranks No. 11.

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"It was important for this group," U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter told reporters. "We are a young side and we need to learn how to win.

"These games are very difficult. For us, it was about having a game plan, executing a game plan, but also about the fight and the spirit."

Mexico got off an ideal start. Forward Jesus Manuel Corona ran through the U.S. defense on the left flank to spark the initial score.

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He then intercepted a pass from U.S. right back Weston McKennie and kicked the ball into the net past goalkeeper Zack Steffen about a minute into the match.

Mexico appeared to double the lead in the 24th minute, but the goal was reversed due to an offside call. The U.S. quickly capitalized with a Giovanni Reyna equalizer.

Pulisic took a corner kick from the right side during that play. McKennie headed the feed off the left post, but the ball rebounded to Reyna in front of the goal. The young striker finished the play with a left-footed shot into the left side of the net.

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The score stayed tied at 1-1 through halftime. Horvath entered the game to replace an injured Steffen in the 69th minute. Mexico midfielder Diego Lainez beat Horvath for the go-ahead goal about 10 minutes later.

Hirving Lozano dribbled above the U.S. box to spark that score. He ended his run with a pass through the defense to find Lainez on the right flank.

The Mexican midfielder received the pass and kept the ball on his left boot. He used his final touch to strike the ball and sent it just inside the near post past Horvath.

McKennie got his head on another corner kick to equalize for the U.S. a few minutes later.

Reyna sent the kick in from the left side. The pass curled toward the far post. McKennie met the ball in midair and flicked a shot into the right side of the net to beat Mexico goalie Guillermo Ochoa in the 82nd minute.

Neither team scored in the first 15-minute period of extra time. Mexico fouled Pulisic in the box in the 108th minute to prompt the go-ahead penalty kick.

Pulisic kept a calm demeanor and lofted the attempt over a diving Ochoa for the game winner.

Mexico earned another penalty kick later in the period due to a U.S. handball in the box. Mexico's Andres Guardado stepped up to the line and ripped a grounded shot toward the left post, but Horvath guessed correctly on the destination of the shot and saved the would-be equalizer to seal the victory.

"Give our guys a ton of credit for the way they hung in there and it really showed the heart of champions," Berhalter said.

The U.S. men battle Costa Rica in a friendly at 7 p.m. EDT Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.

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